Researchers develop home treatment gel for gum disease

September 21, 2022
Researchers develop home treatment gel for gum disease

Periodontitis is an inflammatory gum disease characterised by persistent inflammation, an imbalance of bacteria in the mouth, and destruction of the bones and structures that support the teeth – untreated, gum disease can lead to painful and bleeding gums, difficulty chewing, and tooth loss. Researchers at NYU College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) have developed an at-home topical treatment for gum disease made up of a succinate compound that simultaneously suppresses inflammation and changes the makeup of oral bacteria.

Increased levels of succinate, a molecule produced during metabolism, has been linked to higher levels of inflammation and subsequently, gum disease, according to previous studies.

Yuqi Guo, an associate research scientist in the Department of Molecular Pathobiology at NYU Dentistry, and colleagues similarly discovered that elevated levels of succinate activated the succinate receptor and, in turn, drove inflammation and bone loss, and led to greater imbalances in healthy and unhealthy bacteria in the mouth.

The researchers examined dental plaque samples from humans and blood samples from mice to eventually develop a gel formulation of a small compound that targets the succinate receptor and prevents it from being activated.

The compound was applied as a topical gel to the gums of mice with gum disease, which reduced local and systemic inflammation and bone loss in a matter of days. In one test, the researchers applied the gel to the gums of mice with gum disease every other day for four weeks, which cut their bone loss in half compared to mice who did not receive the gel.

Mice treated with the gel also had significant changes to the community of bacteria in their mouths. Notably, bacteria in the Bacteroidetes family – known to be dominant in gum disease – were depleted in those treated with the gel.

The researchers are continuing to study the gel in animal models to find the appropriate dosage and timing for application, as well as determine any toxicity. Their long-term goal is to develop a gel and oral strip that can be used at home by people with or at risk for gum disease, as well as a stronger, slow-release formulation that dentists can apply to pockets that form in the gums during gum disease.

“Current treatments for severe gum disease can be invasive and painful. In the case of antibiotics, which may help temporarily, they kill both good and bad bacteria, disrupting the oral microbiome. This new compound that blocks the succinate receptor has clear therapeutic value for treating gum disease using more targeted and convenient processes,” concluded Xin Li, professor of Molecular Pathobiology at NYU Dentistry.

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